PPS drawing
Nottingham W History

History of  Nottingham's Water Supply

In 1696 the original Nottingham waterworks company obtained a lease from the Corporation and  built pumps driven by a water wheel at the bottom of Finkhill Street roughly  on the site of the Narrow Boat Inn in Canal Street. The pumps took water from the River Leen and forced it into a small reservoir on the east side  of Park Row, just above Postern Street. From this, pipes of varying sizes led to most parts of the town.

Before the Waterworks Company was established, all water used in the town was taken from a shallow  wells or from the rivers and distributed manually by carriers known as "Higglers".

Between 1720 and 1830, the population of Nottingham rose from 10,000 to 50,000, largely through to the introduction of Framework Knitting and that Lace Industry. Opposition by Burgesses and Freeman however prevented development of the commonable  lands around and the extra population had to be housed within the bounds  of the medieval town. The River Leen supply quickly became inadequate and heavily contaminated with sewage and industrial wastes. Epidemics of cholera and typhoid occurred and although the causes were not fully understood, it gradually became recognized that the condition of the water was contributory.

In order to meet some of the new demands, additional supply companies were formed: The Zion Hill Waterworks near Holden Street, in the late 18th century and the Nottingham New Waterworks in Sherwood Street in 1824. Both used steam engines to pump from wells for distribution to carriers and a limited number of houses.

In 1830 the Waterworks Company abandoned and the River Leen as their source of supply in favour of purer spring water collected in a reservoir of about one acre in area at Scotholme, Basford. Water from the reservoir was fed by gravity through a 10 inch iron pipe to a new pumping station on the River Leen at the foot of the Castle Rock, from where it was pumped to the reservoir near to the General Hospital. The pumps at the Castle Works could be driven either by a water wheel or a rotative beam engine, each of about 16 HP.

The new Trent Waterworks Company opened its works near to the present Town Arms at Trent Bridge in  1831. This remarkable system, the first in the country to provide a supply at constant high pressure so preventing contamination from entering the mains, was constructed under supervision of its designer, the Company Engineer, Thomas Hawksley, then 25 years old. Water flowed through brick filter tunnels laid in the gravel beds on the north side of the river into a reservoir adjoining the pumping station. From there it was pumped by a 40 HP rotative beam engine to a new reservoir built on the corner of Park Row and the Ropewalk.  Parts of this 15 inch cast-iron water main between the pumping station and the reservoir remain in service today.

In 1845 the Nottingham Enclosure Act to was passed to enabling the town to expand rapidly on to  surrounding lands. In the same year, the Nottingham Water Act amalgamated the existing small companies into one Nottingham Waterworks Company.

With the rivers and the Scotholme spring's becoming increasingly polluted Hawksley, now Engineer to the new Company, turned for his supply to the sandstone beds on which Nottingham is built. Some 20 per cent of the Bunter Sandstone's volume is made up of interconnected spaces so enabling it to act both as an effective filter and sponge, storing vast quantities of pure water.

The company built three Pumping Stations on the sandstone: Park Works (1850) using a 60 HP Cornish Beam engine to pump from two 240 ft deep wells; Bagthorpe (Basford) opened with two 60 HP compound Beam Engines in 1857 and was enlarged in 1868 by the addition of a 80hp single cylinder and finally Bestwood was  opened in 1871 and equipped with two 125hp rotative beam engines built by J. Witham and Sons, Leeds. Park Works closed in 1895 although the Engine House still stands at the Derby Road end of the Ropewalk. The Basford, Bestwood and all subsequent sandstone sources remain in use today.

Water was stored in the Park Row reservoir together with a further four built by the Company: Belle Vue (1850); Mapperley Hill (1859); Red Hill (1871) and Papplewick (1880). The stone commemorating the opening of the Papplewick reservoir now stands in the station grounds. The reservoir itself had a short operational  life being taking out of use in 1906 when damaged by colliery subsidence. An auxiliary engine was installed at Bestwood to feed the Kimberley and Greasley areas by pumping over a Standpipe built alongside Papplewick reservoir. This engine, together with the Davy that later replaced it were removed to Papplewick in 1885 to carry out the same purpose and installed in the small building adjoining to the Boiler House.

In 1880, responsibility for water supply passed to the Nottingham Corporation Water Department whose  Engineer, M. Ogle Tarbotton quickly submitted a report drawing attention to the urgent need for increased production and storage capacity. The result was the construction of Papplewick pumping station with its two 140 HP James Watt rotative beam engines and a second Mapperley reservoir both brought into operation in 1884. With Papplewick in use, the Scotholme, Castle and Trent Works, disused since the completion of Bestwood, were abandoned.

The last station to be built to pump from large diameter wells, rather than boreholes was established at Boughton, 19 miles north of Nottingham, in 1901. The main a plant was driven by two Manhattan type triple expansion steam engines  built by Ashton Frost of Blackburn. The standby plant consisted of the 130  HP Davy horizontal engine, used as the a pilot well engine at Papplewick until 1898, together with a triple expansion engine by Fairburn, Lawson, Combe and Barbour.

1906 saw the opening of the suspension bridge carrying water to Wilford Hill reservoir, as well as gas mains, across the River Trent to West Bridgford. With the opening of Wilford Hill, Hawksley's Park Row Reservoir was abandoned and the site let to the General Hospital for the erection of further extensions.

Burton Joyce was the first station to pump water from boreholes to Nottingham. The first was sunk in 1898 with a further three, 480 ft deep, in 1908. Initially artesian, the overflow from them was pumped into the system by a strange collection of steam engines and boilers housed in a wood and corrugated iron buildings.  Five further borehole stations have been built, all using electrically driven  pumps: Rufford (1945); Lambley (1957); Halam (1963); Markham Clinton (1965)  and Ompton (1969). With the completion of Ompton, extraction from the sandstone amounted to around 23 million gallons a day, about 66 % of the area demand and was thought to be at its maximum. For further development, the city and its successors, the Severn Trent Water Authority, looked to the River Derwent.

In 1899, Nottingham joined with the cities of Leicester, Sheffield and Derby and together with the county of Derbyshire to form the Derwent Valley Water Board. They constructed three reservoirs in the Derbyshire Peak District: Howden (1912); Derwent  (1960) and Ladybower (1945). Water from these was filtered, passed to the Ambergate Service Reservoir and distributed to the cities in agreed proportions.

The supply to Nottingham entered the county through a meter house at Langley Mill and flowed to Ramsdale Reservoir where it was a mixed with water from Papplewick before gravitating into the system at Mapperley. The original supply was turned on in 1913 but following complaints it was stopped one year later whilst the Eastwood Filter Works were built. Supply was resumed in 1917 and within a year accounted for 25 % of the demand.

The new Derwent  scheme was started in 1967 when a storage reservoir and treatment works were built at the Church Wilne taking almost 6 million gallons a day from the River Derwent for the Nottingham supply. A new reservoir has been constructed at Carsington in Derbyshire. Water will be pumped some 500 ft up into the reservoir during the winter and is gradually released into the River Derwent during the summer for extraction at Church Wilne.

Operating cost has assumed increasing importance during the present century. Initially the need was to raise money is to finance the Derwent Valley scheme; later it was to offset the rapidly rising costs of fuel and Labour. Coal prices rose by 221% after the First World War at which time the pumping stations were burning some 12,000 tonnes annually. Despite a similar increase after the Second World War, the steam-driven Stations, except Burton Joyce which was electrified in 1928, survived well into the 1960s.

Electrification in earnest began in December 1961 when No. 3 engine at Basford was shut down. This was followed by the hundred and six year old, compound engines two years later. One of these was eventually preserved in the Nottingham Industrial Museum at Wollaton. Electric pumps were put into service at Bestwood  in 1966; at Boughton in 1967 and finally at to Papplewick in June 1969.  Budget for the electrification of Papplewick was 50,000; the same as Tarbotton estimate for the construction of the entire works, including the Mapperley reservoir in 1881.

B.F. Jeyes

Marriott Ogle Tarbotton

He was born in 1835 and died in 1887, just a few years after he had designed Papplewick  Pumping Station.

He started his career in Wakefield. In 1859 he was appointed Nottingham's Borough Surveyor and Engineer to the Waterworks Committee in 1880.

He carried out many important projects but is especially remembered for replacing the old bridge over the River Trent with the structure that stands today. It was widened in 1926 but passing underneath in a boat, the original portion can still be identified.

He also started the modern sewerage system, establishing Stoke Bardolph Sewerage Disposal Works.

He was the first municipal Engineer in the world to employ subways under streets to carry public services; Gas; Sewers etc. When Victoria Street was created, this system was incorporated in the design.

He built the University College in Shakespeare Street, Nottingham, now part of the Trent Polytechnic and laid the foundation for the present inner City Boulevards.

Papplewick Pumping Station stands as a fitting monument to an early municipal Engineer.